Customer service seems headed in the same direction as the Titanic. Why? For many shortsighted organizations it is about cutting costs, cutting corners with the hopes of driving up profits. One reason is most Americans feel customer service jobs are beneath them. This is particularly true with the younger generation entering today’s job market. Secondly, many organizations have eliminated the human element, replacing it with a lower-cost, impersonal conglomeration of voice mail, email, and online request forms.
The Ritz-Carlton hotels takes a totally different approach. They make customer service a science. Unlike other hotel chains, they measure what makes their guests happy and if those guests will return or not. Happy guests tell their friends if they were pleased or not. Word of mouth advertising is the best form of advertising.
My wife and I recently stayed at the Reynolds Plantation Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee, Georgia for our wedding anniversary. Upon checking in, we dropped off our bags and took a seat in the lobby to enjoy the view of the lake. Just minutes later a service person named Susan introduced herself, beginning a friendly conversation. She asked us why we were staying at the hotel. I said, “We are here for our wedding anniversary.” With a huge smile she said, “Congratulations. Let me go get you some champagne.” Wow! This was the first of two incidents that would capture my loyalty as a guest of the Ritz-Carlton.
Later that evening a knock at the door caught us by surprise. Greeting us again was Susan. This time she surprised us with a luscious piece of cake carefully presented on a plate. In icing was this inscription, “Happy Anniversary.”
It was not a stroke of luck that we stumbled across Susan. She, as well as other Ritz Carlton employees, are carefully selected and thoroughly trained on how to find guest’s “unspoken” requests. They follow a process called the “Three Steps of Service.”
Step 1: Warm welcome
Step 2: Anticipation and compliance
Step 3: Fond farewell
It is during Step 2, where staff members seek out and discover guest’s needs or wishes. Then they present it in a way to create a “moment of truth.” In our case, it was the champagne and the anniversary cake.
Now, let me make an important point to the critics. I know many of you are saying, “I expect to be treated exceptionally well at expensive hotels—it is what I pay for.” Consider this…the same principles and standards of behavior demonstrated at the Ritz-Carlton can also be applied at your local car dealership, bank, or any other business, right?
Just imagine going to a car repair dealership to get your oil changed. Within sixty minutes they change the oil and present the car back to you cleaner than when you dropped it off. Also, the windshield had been cleaned, the carpet had been vacuumed.
How many people would you tell about that experience? Don’t you think any oil change business would see happier customers and more growth? It is not rocket science. Treat customers well, exceed their expectations and your business will grow.